This week’s choice for Nathaniel’s Best Shot series, ROAD TO PERDITION, is undeserving of my tardiness but here it goes. ROAD TO PERDITION is probably my favourite Sam Mendes film because it’s one with the least conflictophiliac historionics, if my newly coined word makes sense. It doesn’t have Kevin Spacey, Jake Gylenhaal or Leonardo di Caprio yelling at their co-stars (AWAY WE GO is up for eventual investigation), and misanthropy never ages well for me. Sure there’s a lot of conflict in this movie too. There’s a scene with Paul Newman‘s character, mob lord John Rooney beating this hit out of his son Connor (Daniel Craig) that can put the latter half of Liam Neeson’s career to shame. But the characters’ destination might be perilous but it’s a smooth ride to get there or in other words, their damnation is certain but it comes as a smoulder instead of a sadistic arsonist.
There are also white picket fences in AMERICAN BEAUTY and REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, as well as the glaring deserts in JARHEAD. ROAD TO PERDITION is on the opposite side of the spectrum, evoking what would happen if Norman Rockwell carved in cozy mahogany. And its gloss and shadows, fitting for adapting a graphic novel, will have its echoes in movies today, almost a decade after this one. But it’s always a new experience watching this movie again, the colour palette more diverse, its blocking beautifully done. Cinematographer Conrad L. Hall does all of this while also redefining symmetry, as cheesy as that sounds. Every group of images holds a newly discovered theme. Like this one of crowds!
This shot above is the best of the movie, an introduction to John’s grand-godson Michael Sullivan Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin). We the audience can barely see him but here he is trying to sell newspapers. Since Michael is our narrator his character transforms into a troubled adolescent. This might be too simple of a character and story arc, but this shot shows the child coexisting with the world-weary, faceless, Kollwitz-like figures. The world is already full of terrible things but his innocence makes him oblivious. He’s also biking towards them, diving inadvertently and cheerily towards damnation. And as a parting gift here’s my second favourite shot that ties in with the first, Michael waiting for his father (Tom Hanks), wading within men looking through the wanted ads during the Depression, a few seconds before he breaks down.
- Hit Me With Your Best Shot: “Road to Perdition” (thefilmexperience.net)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, adapted from Jonathan Safran Foer‘ book, is a New York story, where its protagonist Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) goes around the city to find a lock that fits a key that he’s stumbled upon. Hoping that the said key will help his get closed to his deceased father Thomas (Tom Hanks), he missions through different parts of the city, every place filled with a different cinematic context. This is where Dean threatened to jump off a bridge, the neighborhood where Alike spent her adolescence or where Joe – a Woody Allen substitute – asked for donations for an Israeli state.
New York’s probably unique this way and just like the city, Stephen Daldry‘s film explores many new stories that will connect with Oskar’s. He finds the key inside an envelope labeled ‘Black’ inside a broken vase, convincing him that ‘Black’ is a surname of a New Yorker who can reconnect him to his father’s spirit or tell him something about his father that his young self couldn’t possibly know. The first of many stories involves Abby Black, played by Viola Davis who generously adds nuance to the few scenes she’s in – there’s a part of me who would rather her win an Oscar here than in The Help.
I believe that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close tries to and admittedly unfairly posit itself as a movie beyond criticism because I treat it not as a movie but as a person. Or more clearly, as I would if I meet Oskar, the character manifesting the story’s values and world view. Just like the movie, he’s annoying, he rambles too much, has too many neurotic and post-traumatic quirks and can’t finish a thought. But he’s also an independent child who journeys within New York on foot which is plausible and the kid is awesome, he has Asperger’s and his father died on 9/11. Where’s your snark now?
In fairness there are many moments within the movie that could be deal breakers. The first line that Oskar says is statistically inaccurate and I hate ‘wrong’ facts in movies. The montage where he talks about the things he hates. The scenes where he does and shows the injuries he inflicts on himself. The last shot. Some of the one-sided exchanges between him and a renter (Max von Sydow) are the worst, first because he and the movie find a human target for his hammering shock and awe. Speaking of which I will also admit that the movie uses the Babe Ruth method, presenting a tear jerking scene in case the last one didn’t make you cry.
But if only a few of the emotions aren’t earned, many of the great images are. Oskar running across a red brick wall in a push and pull struggle with the renter. The renter having yes or no tattooed on either palm. The cool glass walls where Oskar meets Abby’s husband William (Jeffrey Wright). I can pretend to know something within those images that help present an arc within the movie. Although there is something about the brightness of these moments that makes the movie feel like a sobering letter to a healing city. As if an invisible yet ever so present sun is guarding this child, making this unlikely gritty place the setting of a fairy tale, not in a pejorative but in a refreshing sense.
Another character guiding Oskar is his mother Linda played by divisive Sandra Bullock, their relationship frayed because of his closeness to Thomas even after his death, seeing each other as the family’s third wheel. She’s fortunate because of the great material involving her character, in an already personalized movie her scenes show the familial and micro side. These scenes wouldn’t work and be the movie’s best without her talents. Daldry, collaborating with screenwriter Eric Roth, produce a hit-and-miss movie when it comes to its tone. But its pacing softens these thousand shocks, making it Daldry’s most visceral and rewarding. Just before it loses our emotional connection, it boomerangs it back to us again. 3/5.
- Marshall Fine: Movie review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (huffingtonpost.com)
Before the main feature, the theatre played a Pixar short called ‘Day and Night,’ written and directed by Teddy Newton. Two dogs, Day and Night, have a non-verbal debate on who is better by showing what happens through their day or night bodies. There’s an NPR-like Deus-ex-machina that helps them through. This deus-ex-machina, as a young adult, is where I start looking at the most banal thing and think ‘Is this appropriate/comprehensible to children?’ And are kids supposed to know that Vegas exists? But those little twerps have ears and do understand the ‘moral’ of the story. Plus there’s Vegas and arm square-dancing and stuff. Oh, and night.
In this installment of the Toy Story series, the toys haven’t been played with in a while since their owner, Andy, is 17 and 17-year-olds don’t play with toys anymore. A mix-up gets the toys to a daycare called Sunnyside. Woody (Tom Hanks) escapes during recess, the rest realize that Sunnyside is the exact opposite of perfect.
Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) is the best part of the film. Spoilers. Woody’s escape makes Buzz the de-facto leader. The latter gets caught by the Sunnyside toy cabal led by Lotso (Ned Beatty) and Ken (Michael Keaton) and is manually switched to the dark side. As a villain’s henchman, he helps to get the film into a Cool Hand Luke reference. When the toys try to switch him back, they accidentally tap into his Spanish mode. The film’s one or two detractors would call that a gimmick, but I can BS and say that the Spanish gag is about hidden talents and imagination. But I’m a sucker for physical comedy like Buzz dancing circles around Jessie. And you know, there’s gotta be a way to herd the ‘Dora the Explorer’ fans into the multiplexes.
Kristen Schaal’s in this film, playing a naughty dinosaur.
It’s kinda distracting knowing that Jessie is voiced by Joan Cusack.
Up, then Toy Story 3, then Wall-E. I have no memory of Toy Story and Toy Story 2, and I don’t even think I’ve seen the latter. I have never seen Cars, but no matter how terrible it might be, it gets a conditional pass because it’s Paul Newman’s last film. Put A Bug’s Life under Toy Story 3 by a hair. If you wanna drag 1995 into this, Pocahonats is above Wall-E, and The Lion King trumps all.
Then there’s Andy, who calls the toys ‘junk,’ slightly appropriate for objects kept in the chest while Andy’s skateboarding or on his laptop. What the other toys, especially Mrs. Potatohead, hears is ‘junk,’ fueling their desire to get away from Andy in the first place. Real people of Andy’s age aren’t into ‘being a kid again’ as I imagine other people might think, and in the beginning of the film, his relationship to these inanimate objects are way apart. I also imagine that his fictional world doesn’t think ‘novelty’ when thinking about toys popular in the mid-90’s. A part of the demographic of this film are 17-year-old kids or older, like people my age who were children when the first movie came out. The story is mostly about the toys yearning for Andy’s touch, successfully getting our sympathies when they’re pretending to be inanimate. Yet it’s also about wondering whether Andy will tap into a childhood nostalgia or not, the same way our memories come back to us even if we can never fully relive them.
- Toy Story 3 : Anything Pooh can do, Buzz can do better (telegraph.co.uk)
Adapting the late award-winning CBS producer George Crile’s book, Aaron Sorkin wrote Charlie Wilson’s War and probably had a play in mind, since most of the scenes consist of place, characters and their lines electrically ricochet. There’s little visual manipulation or tricks from director Mike Nichols. He’s the best director for these kind of ‘play’ movies, winning for Tony’s and all. We’ll jump to a scene where our hero, Congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) and American spy Gust Avrikotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman) pay a visit to Zvi, an Israeli arms dealer.
Zvi: Afghanistan and Pakistan don’t recognize our right to exist, we just got done fighting a war against Egypt, and everyone who has ever tried to kill me or my family has been trained in Saudi Arabia!
Gust: That’s not true, Zvi. Some of them were trained by us.
A few minutes later, Charlie reveals a pending coke charge against him, And Zvi replies with ‘I love you Charlie, but you are a grown man who still hasn’t learned to look both ways before crossing the facking street!’
In many scenes of the movie, Hanks plays the straight guy and takes the back seat for Hoffman and Julia Roberts’ Joanne Herring. It’s wonderful to see Hanks as a part of an all-cast ensemble, but then again, when Julia Roberts is in the room, everyone else is a bag lady.
Speaking of her, Julia Roberts is both overrated and underrated. She dominated the box office in the 90’s yet people wanted to throw something at her when she won an Oscar against Ellen Burstyn. Charlie Wilson’s War is her second movie with Mike Nichols, the first being a happy woman with a dubious past. She’s also a mainstay in Steven Soderbergh’s movies as well as two early movies by disgraced director Joel Schumacher. Her hook up with directors isn’t as edgy as if she worked with Michael Haneke or Lars von Trier, but Nichols and Soderbergh give her great work she deserves.
Charlie Wilson’s War is a satire of Washignton’s lack of foresight, the Orwellian ‘Eurasia and Eastasia’ insanity that America has adopted, like a superpower that by its own fault has enemies and war zones change by the decade. One can see US imperialism, as shown in the film, as a parasite doing its mission in one country and leaving it devastated after the mission is accomplished.
But it’s not just the Americans who are at fault here. A young Afghan tells Charlie, ‘Don’t send us rice and bandages. Give us guns.’
Charlie Wilson’s War is gonna be on AMC again tonight and tomorrow afternoon. It’s a good laugh, or six.
Sam Mendes‘ sophomore outing Road to Perdition is gonna be on the History Channel Canada at 9 tonight. This movie’s both underrated and over-appreciated. It was released in the summer with decent box office revenue but met with little recognition by the Academy. It’s overrated because, well, It’s Sam Mendes. Watch it to see Tom Hanks do one of his most difficult roles in his long and admittedly monotonous career.
There are a few flaws, like the dated hopeful musical score by Thomas Newman and the CGI. The rest of it is gritty captured with an ‘opposites complement’ clean cinematography by the late Conrad L. Hall, making this movie a career best for Mendes.
First of all, I just wanna say that FIRST BLOG ENTRY IN THREE DAYS!
RopeofSilicon asked its readers what their first movie going experience was. “Forrest Gump.” I was seven. I remember my paternal grandmother taking me, my sister and my two cousins to see the movie. I remember the bus stop, young Forrest’s foot getting stuck in the gutter, Forrest (Tom Hanks) in the rain, Forrest meeting Jenny (Robin Wright) and giving her some box and I remmeber the meeting being really happy and I guess it’s more bittersweet.
Everything else was a blur. For some reason, I don’t remember Jenny being a coke addicted stripper trying to jump off a building and eventually getting AIDS. Or Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise) being homeless and getting hookers for him and Forrest and eventually kicking him out because one of the hookers called Forrest a retard or something. And how it’s a one in a million chance for a special needs person to have a rockin’ body like that. And somebody investing Forrest’s money on Apple, because advertising within a film existed back then too. And that this is probably Haley Joel Osment’s first movie. Hookers and suicide and cocaine and the stock market in a family movie.
I blame my lack of memory first to the draconian censorship board in the Philippines. Maybe I slept while watching the movie, or we left the theatre when the shocking parts happened. The last scenario seems impossible since my grandma was also a cultural person who would probably have wanted us to see the terrible side of life. But then she didn’t allow me to have toy guns.
There’s also a part of me that’s a bit surprised how this movie hasn’t aged well. All we have to do is look at Jenny’s storyline which, by the way, is probably the most ridiculous sentence I’ve ever written. And I haven’t even said everything that happens to her. All those things can happen to a real person, but going through time with a timely addiction to a timely disease makes someone look more like a time capsule or a metaphor instead of a fleshed out character. Jenny, however, exists both as a foil for Forrest as a way to remind contemporary critics that this movie ain’t cookie cutter.
Tom Hanks’s performance divides critics and movie writers moreso today than when it was released. I guess if a movie fails to shock at repeat viewings, it fails. I can’t watch it in its duration when it’s being aired on TV. I like it despite its flaws, but there are too many movie I like better that came out the same year.
I also wanna say that my mom absolutely hates Tom Hanks for some reason. I don’t know when else would I have the opportunity to expand on that.
While everyone else was watching “Glee” (seriously, fuck that show), I was masochistic and I watched “Saving Private Ryan.”
I have trouble writing about this since this is turn of the twenty-first century cinema and those have different expectations than I do now. And it’s a bit of a pejorative but it’s still true that Spielberg has that mainstream feel to all his movies, even the most depressing ones like this. The movie does start with irritating hope music that would eventually be done away with years later.
But the movie quickly earns the right to use that music when it switches to a grueling 30 minute slaughter scene of American soldiers. Spielberg spoon-feeds but his in context to his more recent work, we get a little surprised by what’s…in his stew. The movie shows a man getting killed seconds after seeing someone else getting shot. In moments of relative peace, we forget the sadism that is unfortunately necessary in times of war.
This movie reverses the world view of “The Thin Red Line.” Unlike the Malick film, deaths in “Saving Private Ryan” less elegiac and more guts-y and faceless. Also, the leaders responsible for the myriad of slaughtered young men is faceless. We see generals ordering rescue missions instead of ambitious military attacks, although the movie shows both. The brutality is then seen in the lower level, making ‘the American people’ just as cruel as the enemy.
I don’t know why there are so many women in my pictures. They only show up for five minutes, but they that effect on me. Home front, I guess.
The scene with the mother also starts off how Boschian Spielberg could be. Comes with the territory and subject matter, I guess. I could notice the little details from the TV, it would have been fun watching this in the theatre. But then it wouldn’t have been fun since I was ten at the time.
Anyway, enough of me now, enjoy the rest of the screen caps, if you can even call this enjoying.